Lewis Hamilton has become the all-time record holder for Formula 1 pole positions after topping qualifying for the 69th time in his career in a crazy, three-hour long session ahead of the Italian Grand Prix on Saturday afternoon.
After tying with Michael Schumacher’s record for 68 poles last weekend at Spa, Hamilton moved clear in style by finishing 1.1 seconds ahead of the field at the end of a bizarre session at Monza.
Despite final practice being shortened to just 16 minutes due to heavy overnight rain and throughout the morning, qualifying began as planned at 2pm local time (8am ET).
All drivers took to the track on full wet tires, but they were not enough to keep Romain Grosjean pointing in the right direction as he aquaplaned while applying the throttle on the main straight and spun into the wall.
A break in the weather eventually came over two-and-a-half hours after Grosjean’s crash, with the session going green again at 16:40 local time.
Q1 resumed with drivers running on the full wet tire, but a drying line soon appeared to allow them to switch to intermediates for the final five minutes of the session.
Valtteri Bottas was able to end Q1 fastest, but uncertainty about the advantage offered by the inters led to a mix of tire picks at the beginning of Q2, only for Mercedes to once again press its authority with Hamilton leading the session on intermediates.
More rain ahead of Q3 threw another spanner in the works, though, with the likes of Hamilton and Bottas forced to come in and switch back to full wets early in the final stage of qualifying, handing those already on wets an advantage.
Hamilton soon began to find his feet, timing his final run perfectly to be one of the last drivers to cross the line, turning in a best lap of 1:34.660.
Hamilton had been run close by Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo throughout the session, but they could only take P2 and P3 respectively.
However, with both dropping back due to grid penalties, 18-year-old Lance Stroll will start from the front row on Sunday after qualifying an incredible fourth for Williams.
Force India’s Esteban Ocon was another young star on display in qualifying, taking P5 for Force India, but will also gain two places to line up third on the grid ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.
Ferrari had a session to forget as Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel struggled in the dying moments of Q3, finishing seventh and eighth overall.
Felipe Massa was ninth for Williams, while Stoffel Vandoorne led McLaren’s charge in P10 with an excellent display in the wet.
Sergio Perez was knocked out in Q2 by just two-thousandths of a second, losing out to teammate Ocon of all people, leaving the Mexican racer 11th overall ahead of Nico Hulkenberg.
Despite carrying a 35-place grid penalty, Alonso opted to complete some running in Q2, finishing 13th overall ahead of Toro Rosso teammates Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr.
Kevin Magnussen was unable to find enough time on the intermediate tires at the end of Q1, leaving him 16th ahead of Renault’s Jolyon Palmer and the Sauber pair of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein. Romain Grosjean propped up the timesheets for Haas following his crash earlier in the day.
The Italian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.
Another crash while leading at Seattle dropped Chase Sexton from the top of the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings while solid performances by Cooper Webb and Eli Tomac allow them to climb the chart and threaten to make this a two-rider battle with six rounds remaining in the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross season.
During the race, Webb knew he had ground to make up. Riding behind both Tomac and Sexton early in the Main, he was as far back as fifth on Lap 7 at Seattle. That position would cost him the red plate and give away the advantage he began to build with his first win of the season in Tampa. Sexton is often at his best as he battles from the back and he methodically worked his way through the field. At the end of the feature, he was nearly five seconds off Tomac’s pace, but during the past 45 days, he holds the advantage. A resurgent Tomac that could erase that advantage quickly though.
Tomac struggled in Indianapolis with a neck strain. That contributed to his worst performance of 2023 and his second result outside the top five. He finished third in Detroit two weeks ago, but it was a distant third after finishing off the podium in his heat during that round. In Seattle, it appeared the same thing might happen when Tomac finished third in the prelim behind his two principal competitors Webb and Sexton. The Main was a different story.
Tomac dropped to fourth in the opening laps behind both of his rivals early in the race, but he got around Webb on Lap 2 and kept charging. When Sexton fell to the ground on Lap 11 and dropped to fourth, Tomac was in position to strike. He scored his sixth win of the season to tie James Stewart for second on the all-time wins list. He now shares the red plate with Webb as the rounds wind down.
Sexton has the speed, but he lacks the seasoning of Webb and Tomac. He’s pressing hard on every lap and that has bitten him several times this year. Sexton’s mistakes are costing him with a 10th-place finish at Indy, the loss of seven points at Detroit and a fifth in Seattle as the riders he’s battling stood on the podium. No one seriously questions Sexton’s talent or speed, but ultimately the results are what counts.
Justin Barcia is hitting his stride. He advances two positions this week after scoring his fourth consecutive top-five and second podium in that span of races. Barcia finished between sixth and eighth in five consecutive rounds from Anaheim 2 through Arlington, but he’s mostly avoided controversy and that puts him fourth in this week’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Seattle.
Jason Anderson had a solid performance in Seattle, but with a fifth-place finish in his heat and fourth in the Main he just keeps losing a little ground to the leaders. The biggest impact to his standing in the NBC Power Rankings is a 10th-place finish in Indianapolis that will take a while to age out of the 45-day formula. He’s tied for fourth in the championship points with Ken Roczen, who sits sixth in the rankings below. It’s important to be the rider “best in class” with Webb, Tomac and Sexton stealing the show.
The 250 West riders were back in action in Seattle and that gave Jett Lawrence the opportunity to break out of a tie with his brother Hunter Lawrence on the all-time wins list. It also provided Jett the opportunity to take back the top spot in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Seattle.
Jett has stood on the podium in every race this year with the exception of the second Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2 and that level of perfection gives him bragging rights. Rest assured that while the two brothers have a bond that is unapparelled in motorsports, there is no one they would rather beat. Neither has been particularly successful in Triple Crown rounds this year, however, and Jett could lose his advantage in two weeks in Glendale, Arizona under that format.
A rivalry is developing between Lawrence and Cameron McAdoo. Tired of losing to the affable Australian, McAdoo pushed the envelope last week in Seattle. He crowded Lawrence in the whoops during their heat race and sent both to the ground. That frustration could bubble over with four rounds remaining. One thing is certain, when these two riders are in proximity on the track, the cameras will be aimed in their direction.
A little means a lot this season. Finishing second to Lawrence in four of five rounds, RJ Hampshire would be losing ground to the leader no matter what, but an 11th-place finish in the overall at Anaheim 2 places him eighth on the chart below behind two of the 250 West riders and five 250 East competitors.
In the mains, Levi Kitchen has been all over the board with a win, one more top-five, two results on the high side of the single digits and a crash-induced 21st at San Diego. He’s really shown his speed in the heats, however, with a perfect record of top-fives and a win.
Mitchell Oldenburg makes the top five list among West riders with a perfect record of top-10 finishes. He’s heading in the wrong direction, however, falling from ninth overall to 11th after finishing outside the top five in both his heat and the Main last week.
Jett Lawrence – W
Hunter Lawrence – E
Nate Thrasher – E
Cameron McAdoo – W
Haiden Deegan – E
Jeremy Martin – E
Jordon Smith – E
RJ Hampshire – W
Levi Kitchen – W
Max Anstie – E
Mitchell Oldenburg – W
Max Vohland – W
Tom Vialle – E
Pierce Brown – W
Enzo Lopes – W
Chris Blose – E
Chance Hymas – E
Michael Mosiman – E
Stilez Robertson – W
Phil Nicoletti – W
* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days for the 450 class and last 90 days for 250s (because of the split nature of their season).